|convert to Islam. The faith of Islam is based on monotheism, or the belief in a single God. This God, Muhammad taught, was the same God of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Through Gabriel, God told Muhammad to teach others about treating people with compassion, honesty, and justice.
According to Muslim tradition, Gabriel continued to reveal messages from God over the next 22 years. At first, Muhammad confided these messages only to his family and friends, including his cousin Ali and a close companion, Abu Bakr. Gradually, a small group of followers developed at Makkah. They were called Muslims, which means “those who surrender to God.” For Muslims, Islam was a way of life and the basis for creating a just society.
Though Muhammad apparently could neither read nor write, he said that the messages from Gabriel were imprinted on his mind and heart. His followers also memorized them. Eventually, some followers wrote down these words and collected them in the Qur’an (also spelled Koran), the holy book of Islam. The poetic beauty of this book helped attract new believers to Islam.
The Hira Cave is where, according to Islamic teachings, Muhammad was first visited by the angel Gabriel.
convert a person who adopts new beliefs, especially those of a religious faith
monotheism belief in a single God
8.5 Muhammad’s Teaching Meets with Rejection
Around 613 C.E., Muhammad began to preach to other Makkans. He taught that people must worship one God, that all believers in God were equal, and that the rich should share their wealth. He urged Makkans to take care of orphans and the poor, and to improve the status of women.
Some members of Muhammad’s clan became Muslims. People from other clans and social classes also joined him. Most Makkans, however, rejected Muhammad’s teachings. Makkah’s leaders did not want to share their wealth. They also feared that if Muhammad grew stronger, he would seize political power. Merchants worried that if people stopped worshiping their gods, they might stop making pilgrimages to Makkah. Muhammad’s monotheistic teachings also disturbed Arabs who did not want to give up their gods.
To prevent the spread of the prophet’s message, some Arabs called Muhammad a liar. Some tortured his weaker followers. Despite this treatment, the Muslims would not give up their faith. Muhammad was also protected by Abu Talib, the head of the Hashim clan. Anyone who harmed a member of the clan would face Abu Talib’s vengeance.
As the number of Muslims grew, the powerful clans of Makkah started a boycott to make Muhammad’s followers give up Islam. For three years, the Hashim clan suffered as Makkans refused to do business with them. Although they were threatened with starvation, the boycott failed to break their will. These difficult years, however, took their toll on Abu Talib and Khadijah. In 619, these trusted family members died.
While these losses were terrible for Muhammad, that year he reported a miraculous event. The Qur’an tells the story of the Night Journey in which a winged horse took Muhammad to Jerusalem, the city toward which early Muslims had directed their prayers. There he met and prayed with earlier prophets, like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The horse then guided Muhammad through the seven levels of heaven, and Muhammad met God. To this day, Jerusalem is a holy city for Muslims.
As-Akhar rock is thought to be where, according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad ended his Night Journey to Jerusalem and was led to heaven. An eight-sided, domed monument now marks the spot over the rock.
boycott a refusal to do business with an organization or group
8.6 From the Migration to Madinah to the End of His Life
With Abu Talib’s death, Muhammad lost his protector. As Muslims came under more attacks, Muhammad sought a new home. Then a group of Arab pilgrims from a town called Yathrib visited Makkah and converted to Islam. They asked Muhammad to move to Yathrib to bring peace between feuding tribes. In return, they pledged their protection.
In 622, Muhammad and his followers left Makkah on a journey known as the hijrah. Yathrib was renamed Madinah (also spelled Medina), short for the “City of the Prophet.” The year of Muhammad’s hijrah later became the first year in the Muslim calendar.
In Madinah, Muhammad developed a new Muslim community as more Arabs converted to Islam. Muslims pledged to be loyal and helpful to each other. They emphasized the brotherhood of faith over the ties of family, clan, and tribe. Muhammad also asked his followers to respect Christians and Jews. Like Muslims, these “People of the Book” believed in one God.
The Makkans, however, still felt threatened. In 624, fighting broke out between the Muslims and Makkans. The Muslims successfully attacked a caravan on its way to Makkah. A few years later, the Makkans staged a siege of Madinah, but failed to capture the city.
Meanwhile, Muhammad convinced other tribes to join the Muslim community. As Islam spread across Arabia, the Makkans made a truce with the Muslims. In 628, they agreed to let Muhammad make the pilgrimage to their city the following year. In 630, however, they broke the truce. As Muhammad’s army marched toward Makkah, the city’s leaders surrendered without a battle. Muhammad and his followers destroyed the idols (statues of gods) at the Ka’ba and rededicated the shrine to Allah. Muhammad also forgave his former enemies. The war had ended.
In March 632, Muhammad led his final pilgrimage. In the town of his birth, he delivered his Last Sermon. He reminded Muslims to treat each other well and to be faithful to their community. Shortly after his return to Madinah, Muhammad died.
The Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah holds Muhammad’s tomb.
siege an attempt to surround a place and cut off all access to it in order to force a surrender
8.7 The Four Caliphs
When Muhammad died, most of central and southern Arabia was under Muslim control. After the prophet’s death, his companions had to choose a new leader to preserve the community. They picked Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s friend and father-in-law.
Abu Bakr became the first caliph, or Muslim ruler. He and the three leaders who followed him came to be known to a large group of Muslims as the “rightly guided” caliphs. These caliphs were said by this group of Muslims to have followed the Qur’an and the example of Muhammad. The Muslim government was called the caliphate.
When some tribes tried to break away, Abu Bakr used military campaigns to reunite the community. Under his leadership, Muslims completed the unification of Arabia. Then they began to carry the teachings of Islam beyond the Arabian Peninsula.
After Abu Bakr died in 634 C.E., Caliph Umar expanded the Muslim empire. In addition to spreading the faith of Islam, conquest allowed Muslims to gain new lands, resources, and goods.
By 643, the Muslim empire included lands in Iraq, Persia, the eastern Mediterranean, and North Africa. Umar set up governments and tax systems in these provinces. He also let Jews and Christians worship as they liked. In Egypt, treaties allowed for freedom of worship in exchange for the payment of tribute. Later, Muslims completed similar treaties with the Nubians, a people who lived to the south of Egypt.
Upon Umar’s death in 644 C.E., Uthman became caliph. Uthman was a member of the Umayyad clan. He helped unite Muslims when he selected an official edition of the Qur’an. But he also awarded high posts to his relatives. People in the provinces complained that they were ruled unfairly. Discontent spread, and rebels killed Uthman in 656.
Ali ibn Abi Talib, Muhammad’s cousin and son-in-law, reluctantly agreed to become the fourth caliph. Some Umayyads challenged his rule, drawing the Muslim community into a civil war. Ali sent forces against them. When he ended the rebellion through negotiation, some of his supporters disapproved of his action. In 661, one of them murdered Ali.
The fourth caliph in the Muslim government fought against rebellious Muslims who challenged his rule.
caliph a title taken by Muslim rulers who claimed religious authority to rule
province a division of a country or an empire
The Expansion of Islam, 632-750
8.8 The Umayyad Dynasty
Soon after Ali’s death, Mu’awiyah, the leader of the Umayyads, claimed the caliphate. Most Muslims, called the Sunnis, came to accept him. But a minority of Muslims, known as the Shi’a, or “party” of Ali, refused to do so. They believed that only people directly related to Muhammad through his son-in-law Ali should be caliph. The split between the Sunnis and Shi'a lasts to this day.
Mu’awiyah put down a revolt by Ali’s supporters. He held on to the role of caliph. He also founded the Umayyad dynasty. In 661, the Umayyads moved their capital to Damascus, Syria. From there, the caliphs ruled the huge Muslim empire for close to 100 years. To maintain control, they kept large armies posted at garrison towns.
Slowly, the lands of the Muslim empire took on more elements of Arab culture. Muslims introduced the Arabic language. Along with Islam, acceptance of Arabic helped unite the diverse people of the empire. In addition, Arabs took over as top officials. People bought goods with new Arab coins. While the Muslims did not force people to convert to Islam, some non-Arabs willingly became Muslims.
The Muslim empire continued to expand. The Umayyad caliphs sent armies into central Asia and northwestern India. In 711, Muslim armies began their conquests of present-day Spain. However, at the Battle of Tours in 732, forces under the Frankish king Charles Martel turned the Muslims back in west-central France. This battle marked the farthest extent of Muslim advances into present-day France.
Muslims held on to land in Spain, where Muslim states lasted for almost 800 years. Muslims in Spain built some of the greatest cities of medieval Europe. Their capital city, Cordoba, became a center of learning where Muslim, Jewish, and Christian scholars shared ideas. Through their work, Muslim Spain made amazing advances in arts, science, technology, and literature. You will learn more about the accomplishments of Islamic civilization in Chapter 10.
The first two caliphs, Abu Bakr and Umar, are buried on either side of Muhammad’s tomb.
dynasty a line of rulers descended from the same family
garrison a place where a group of soldiers is stationed for defensive purposes
8.9 Chapter Summary
In this chapter, you learned about the life of Muhammad and the early spread of Islam. Muhammad and his followers unified Arabia. Within 100 years, Muslims created a great empire.
When Muhammad was born, Arabia was not a united country. Tribes raided each other and fought over the region’s scarce resources. Arabs did, however, share economic ties through trade, as well as the Arabic language and culture.
Born in Makkah, Muhammad was, according to Muslim tradition, a successful merchant known for his honesty. He was also a spiritual man. After a dramatic experience during a night of prayer in 610, he gradually came to accept his calling as a prophet. Muhammad described how he continued to receive revelations from the angel Gabriel. His teachings were gathered in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam.
Muhammad taught that there was only one God. He also taught equality. He told his followers to share their wealth and to care for the less fortunate in society. He preached tolerance for Christians and Jews as fellow worshipers of the one true God.
Many people in Makkah opposed Islam. In 622, Muhammad and his followers moved to Madinah. There Muhammad established a Muslim community. By the time of his death in 632, people throughout central and southern Arabia had accepted the teachings of Islam and the Qur’an as the words of God.
The caliphs who followed Muhammad greatly expanded the lands under their rule despite struggles over leadership and even civil war. In 661, the Umayyads moved their capital to Syria. By the mid 700s, the Muslim empire included Spain, North Africa, the Middle East, and part of central Asia and India.
Along with the Arabic language, the acceptance of Islam helped unify this vast empire. In the next chapter, you will learn more about the core beliefs of the Islamic faith.
Muslims continued to follow Muhammad’s teachings as Islam spread throughout the Middle East and beyond.
The Teachings of Islam
The beliefs and practices of Islam are a way of life for Muslims.
In Chapter 8, you learned about the prophet Muhammad and the early spread of Islam. Now you will take a closer look at the Islamic faith.
If you visited any city in a Muslim country today, you would notice many things that reflect the teachings of Islam. Five times a day, you would hear a call to prayer throughout the city. While some people hurry to houses of worship, called mosques, others simply remain where they are to pray, even in the street. You would see people dressed modestly and many women wearing a head scarf. You would find that Muslims do not drink alcohol or eat pork. You might learn how Muslims give money to support their houses of worship and many charitable works. Soon you would come to understand that Islam is practiced as a complete way of life.
In this chapter, you will explore the basic beliefs and practices of Islam. You will learn more about the holy book called the Qur’an. Together with the Sunnah (the example of Muhammad), this book guides Muslims in the Five Pillars of Faith. The Five Pillars are faith, prayer, charity, fasting, and making a pilgrimage to Makkah. You will also study the idea of jihad. Jihad represents Muslims’ struggle with internal and external challenges as they strive to please God. Finally, you will examine shari’ah, or Islamic law.
Use this diagram as a graphic organizer to help you explore the beliefs and practices of Islam.
9.2 Background on Islam
Since the time of Muhammad, Islam has had a huge impact on world history. From Arabia, Islam spread rapidly throughout the Middle East, across North Africa to Spain, and across central Asia nearly to China. In addition to sharing a common faith, Muslims also belonged to a single Islamic community, called the ummah. The Islamic community blended many peoples and cultures.
Islam now has more followers than any religion except Christianity. One out of five people in the world are Muslims. Most people in the Middle East and North Africa are Muslim, but Muslims live in nearly every country of the world. In fact, the majority of Muslims are Asian. And Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the United States.
Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have much in common. Members of all three faiths are monotheists (they believe in one God). All three religions trace their origins to the prophet Abraham. Their scriptures, or sacred writings, all include such figures as Adam, Noah, and Moses. Muslims believe that all three religions worship the same God.
As you learned in Chapter 8, Muslims consider Jews and Christians to be “People of the Book.” The Jewish Bible, called the Torah, is known as the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. The New Testament of Christianity includes, among other writings, the gospels that tell of the life and teachings of Jesus. Muslims believe that these holy books, like the Qur’an, came from God. The Qur’an states that God “earlier revealed the Torah and the Gospel as a source of guidance for people.”
For Muslims, however, the Qur’an contains God’s final revelations to the world. They believe that its messages reveal how God wants his followers to act and worship. In the rest of this chapter, you’ll learn more about the ideas that have shaped the Muslim faith.
The Islamic community has spread throughout the world. These Muslims in Cairo, Egypt, prepare to pray on a sidewalk by facing toward Makkah.
Torah the Jewish scriptures, or Bible. The word Torah is often used to mean to the first five books of the Bible, traditionally said to have been written by Moses.
9.3 The Qur’an and the Sunnah
Two foundations of Islam are the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Through the Qur’an, God describes his laws and moral teachings, or the “straight path.” The Qur’an holds a central position for Muslims everywhere, guiding them in all aspects of their lives.
The Qur’an contains passages that Muhammad is believed to have received from the angel Gabriel. Muhammad and his followers recited and memorized these verses. As Muhammad could apparently not read or write, scribes wrote down these passages. The Arabic of the Qur’an is notable for its great beauty.
In about 651 C.E., Caliph Uthman established an official edition of the Qur’an. He destroyed other versions. The Qur’an used today has remained largely unchanged since then.
Muhammad called the Qur’an Allah’s “standing miracle.” Muslims honor the spoken and written Qur’an. They do not let copies of the sacred book touch the ground or get dirty. Most Muslims memorize all or part of the Qur’an in Arabic. Its verses accompany Muslims through their lives, from birth to death.
The Sunnah (“practice”) is the example that Muhammad set for Muslims during his lifetime. What Muhammad did or said in a certain situation has set a precedent, or guide, for all Muslims. For instance, Muhammad told his followers to make sure their guests never left a table hungry. He also reminded children to honor their parents when he said, “God forbids all of you to disobey your mothers.” For Muslims, the Sunnah is second only to the Qur’an in religious authority.
Within 200 years after Muhammad’s death, thousands of reports about the prophet had traveled throughout Muslim lands. Scholars looked into each story. They placed the stories they could verify into collections. Called hadith (tradition), these accounts provided written evidence of Muhammad’s Sunnah as seen in his words and deeds. They continue to have this role today.
The most basic acts of worship for Muslims are called the Five Pillars of Faith. The Qur’an provides general commands to perform these five duties. The Sunnah explains how to perform them using Muhammad’s example. Let’s look next at each of the five pillars.
These girls in Bangladesh are reading the Qur’an to learn how to perform the basic acts of Muslim worship, called the Five Pillars of Faith.
hadith accounts of Muhammad’s words or actions that are accepted as having authority for Muslims
9.4 The First Pillar: Shahadah
The first Pillar of Faith is shahadah, the profession (declaration) of faith. To show belief in one God and in Muhammad’s prophethood, a Muslim says, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”
The first part of the shahadah affirms monotheism. Like Christians and Jews, Muslims believe that one all-powerful God, whom they call Allah, created the universe. They believe that the truth of one God was revealed to humankind through many prophets. These prophets include Adam, Noah, Moses, and Jesus, who appear in Jewish and Christian scriptures. The Qur’an honors all these prophets.
The second part of the shahadah identifies Muhammad as God’s messenger. According to this statement, Muhammad announced the message of Islam, which was God’s final word to humankind.
The meaning of shahadah is that people not only believe in God, but also pledge their submission to Him. For Muslims, God is the center of life. The shahadah follows Muslims through everyday life, not just prayers. Parents whisper it into their babies’ ears. Muslims strive to utter the shahadah as their last words before death. Students taking a difficult test say the shahadah to help them through the ordeal.
In addition to the reality and oneness of God, Muslims accept the idea of an unseen world of angels and other beings. According to their faith, God created angels to do His work throughout the universe. Some angels revealed themselves to prophets, as Gabriel did to Muhammad. Other angels observe and record the deeds of each human being.
Muslims also believe that all souls will face a day of judgment. On that day, God will weigh each person’s actions. Those who have lived according to God’s rules will be rewarded and allowed to enter paradise. Those who have disbelieved or done evil will be punished by falling into hell.
A muezzin is a person who calls Muslim people to prayer from a mosque’s tower, or minaret.
9.5 The Second Pillar: Salat
The second Pillar of Faith is salat, daily ritual prayer. Muhammad said that “prayer is the proof” of Islam. Salat emphasizes religious discipline, spirituality, and closeness to God.
Throughout Muslim communities, people are called to prayer five times a day: at dawn, noon, midday, sunset, and after nightfall. A crier, called a muezzin (or mu’addin), chants the call to prayer from the tall minaret (tower) of the mosque.
Before praying, Muslims must perform ritual washings. All mosques have fountains where worshipers wash their hands, face, arms, and feet. With a sense of being purified, Muslims enter the prayer area. There they form lines behind a prayer leader called an